September 21, 2017, 06:32:03 PM

Author Topic: [Sep 2017] - Regret and Redemption - Submission Thread  (Read 169 times)

Offline xiagan

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[Sep 2017] - Regret and Redemption - Submission Thread
« on: August 24, 2017, 05:27:38 PM »
Regret and Redemption


by http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com

Your MC did something, planned or by accident, and it went terribly wrong. Life is now constant regret. Do they want to correct it? Is it even possible? Everybody should have the chance to redeem themselves, but this is not a fairy tale - or is it?

Rules:

1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. The story's theme must be regret and/or contain an MC who tries to redeem himself.
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-750 words long.
5. One story per person or writing team (not per account).
6. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That's why they're called limits.
7. Your entry can't be published somewhere else before.
8. This is a writing contest, not a "I have written something like this ten years ago" contest. So if you happen to have a story that fits one of the themes, I'd like it to have a mayor overhaul/edit. Work for it. ;)
9. Please add your story's word count and, if you have, your twitter handle.
10. Please put your story in [ spoiler ] tags to make the thread easier to handle. :) You can find them above the smileys under the B.

If you want so submit your story anonymously you can do so by sending it in a personal message to @xiagan.

Entry will close September 30th/October 1st, 2017 and voting will begin somewhere around the same time too.

All members are eligible to join. If you are not a member you can join here. Sign up is free and all are welcome! :)

The winner will have their piece displayed on the main Fantasy Faction website sometime in the next months.
Submitting a story counts as published. The author retains all rights to their work.

Remember that this thread is only for entries. Discussion or questions can be posted here.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2017, 08:10:05 PM by xiagan »
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Offline Jmack

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Re: [Sep 2017] - Regret and Redemption - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2017, 03:14:33 AM »
It's been a while since I was first to post, but the story is ready so here it is.  :)

1,485 words.

TO THE RUINS

Spoiler for Hiden:
Reader, I promised that even if in my writings I shield the reputations of some, I would never spare my own. By now, you have facts enough to judge me. In this next entry, I give you more and besides.

Among the men of action I have known, Braudus Flynt was deep in goblin lore. He knew the marks of every Eastern clan; was on fighting terms with every chieftain. Perhaps you’ve read the spurious accounts of him published by Professor Marriden. I swear to you, he was both nobler and sadder than you know.

I traveled with Flynt. I fought beside him. He saved my life, and I cost him his.

I was disguised as usual when we tracked Flynt down at Fort Frontier. I'd heard his name, and when Lord Prast recommended him as the only sure man to reach the ruined cities of the ridge lakes, I had to have him as our guide. Grady approached him while I hung back. This turned out to be the right course, as was proved by their conversation.

“You’re fools,” Flynt declared. Grady replied we were set on it. “I'll not be held liable for the outcome.” Grady warranted that no one could blame him if one of us was so foolish as to make too close an acquaintance with a goblin’s axe. “You’ve no women among you, then?” He’d not yet studied the ten of us. Grady replied we had none and never had. Though, he added, some of the best men he’d ever fought with had been women. Flynt gave my friend a stony stare, but he took our money.

The Easterns tumble down from white-robed peaks into green ridges like blades, and between each line of cliffs lie crystal lakes and fertile lands. Five hundred years ago, the goblins took them, burned the cities, and carried the inhabitants off to their warrens. Back home, I’d read a book about these ruined kingdoms and added them to my itinerary.

Reading is one thing. Scrabbling up and down the sides of ridges, dragging our horses more than riding them, is another. My men had been tested by many things, but even they tired after days of this. Flynt frowned at us more often than he spoke, silently picking out a path that kept us clear of goblin raiders’ common roads.

I watched him every moment, trying to discern the signs he read. He noticed; for one day, he turned in his saddle and addressed me. “If you're to learn anything, boy, you’ll need to actually see what I'm seeing.”
 
So began a week-long course in wood- and weather-craft, punctuated with the old guide’s curses and ringing cuffs to my head when I failed to recall which compass point was indicated by nature’s grinding ways on stone or the progression of moss on a massive chestnut. Grady told me later they’d been  wagering how long I'd take the man’s tutelage before trying to knife him.

How Flynt failed to notice that I never made water in his sight as my men did - inured to my presence as they were - or the lighter tambour of my voice, I cannot say. Except for our lessons and brusque orders to Grady, he mostly ignored us. He seemed lost, in the vast landscape and in his own, endlessly circling thoughts.

Two weeks out, he announced there would be no more cook fires. The next day, he smacked the pipe from Grady’s lips to make his point. The ridges rose ever sharper. That our guide found paths across them was a sort of miracle. And as the country grew wilder, a sense of our danger stole in and weighed upon our company. We spoke rarely and kept our weapons ready.

At last we reached a height that overlooked a long valley where lake Calis sparkled below us. On the farther shore sat the ruins of a city, towers crumbling away into the surrounding green.

That night, we camped just inside the trees by edge of the lake under a bright moon.  The men were in a better mood, and spoke quietly over their cold supper. The talk turned to women - one's they’d bedded, wedded, or loved.

Flynt grew restless. His habitually sour countenance tightened. “Women,” he spat. It needled me.

“Come, Braudus,” I teased. “You must have a tale of lost love to share with us.”

I was surprised by the violence of the oath he threw at me. He rose and stalked away into the trees. The men laughed, but I was chagrined and quieted them with a word.

After a while, nature spoke, and I took myself into the privacy of the woods. I was just finishing, my man’s trousers still around my ankles, when I heard a harsh intake of breath. Flynt had come up silently, certainly so lost in his own black mood that he hadn’t noticed me at first. Now he stared aghast, and I knew he’d seen me for the woman I am.

I repaired my clothing, buckled the belt, and thrust out a hand. “Duchess Priscilla Grey,” I declared. “At your service.”

“Breaker’s balls,” the man replied and stormed away to our camp.

I did not rush after him. But when I heard shouting, I broke into a trot. Grady was on the ground nursing a split lip. Flynt was nowhere to be seen.

By the Breaker’s own luck, all this occurred just as a foraging party of goblins that had ranged far beyond its normal haunts rounded a spur of the lake. We were still recovering from the shock of our guide’s desertion when an arrow took one man in the shoulder. They were on us like wolves.

Reaching my blade, I gave blow for blow. Even at that younger age, I knew my craft. In the half-light, I thought some of our party broke away. For myself, I was surrounded, axes and clubs held in a ring around me, the snarling faces of goblins putting a terror into me so deep that I was thankful I'd just relieved myself back there in the trees. I kept the pack at bay for a moment. Then they rushed me, and I was clubbed into unconsciousness.

I came to myself under a lightening sky and took in my situation with dread. The positive was that I had finally reached the lost city of Calis. The negatives were that I was tied against a pole in what had been the central square, while surrounded by hungry goblins, and was so concussed that the front of my shirt was stained with my own sour vomit.

I detest those romances in which the frightened female is carried off by  villains only to be rescued by her handsome hero. Now I wished for just such an embarrassment.

My fate was delayed by a fight that broke out between two of my captors, a huge male and a wiry female I would one day come to call my friend. The other goblins now cordoned the two, ignoring me. I set to untying my bonds, but my fingers were clumsy from the blow to my head. I was just despairing of my chance, when the ropes parted. A voice hissed in my ear: “No sound.” I turned my pounding head and saw beside me the crouching figure of Flynt.

He had to put me over his shoulder since my legs had the strength of wet wool. We were almost to the protection of a sagging stone wall, when a call went up from my guards. The goblins abandoned their sport in an instant. Flynt broke into a run. Though we turned a corner and saw the forest only yards away, the swiftest of them outpaced us.

I found myself on the ground again, a knife thrust into my hand. “Run!” Flynt shouted into my face. “Or do it yourself before they take you.” Then he rose, drew his blade, and charged the goblins, crying, “Miranda! Miranda!”

It was at that moment that four more heroes presented themselves to my grateful eyes: Grady and three surviving companions came whooping out of the shadows and drove off the creatures, if only for a moment. We made for the trees. All the while, Flynt’s aching battle cry of “Miranda! Miranda!” echoed among the ruins.

Do I regret the death of Braudus Flynt, or the five companions who fell by the lakeside, or the two more we left behind in our desperate flight across the ridge lands? No more than I regret the years I spent at the side of the goblin queen, Gurdig, uniting the clans in hope of ending their ravaging. Or the towns of men that I watched burn. Or seeing Grady drawn-and-quartered before my eyes by that obscene murderer Dickson Jobe. Or betraying Gurdig at the last.

Reader, I do not regret the things I've done.

I abominate them.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2017, 11:29:37 PM by Jmack »
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Offline Nora

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Re: [Sep 2017] - Regret and Redemption - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2017, 11:54:47 PM »
Kismet - 1500 words.


Spoiler for Hiden:
My suicide note is a sad thing, short and written on cheap paper, filled with sybiline accusations stained by blood. Mine I presume, though I can't be sure. There is, however, no mistaking my  handwriting, with its long curves and whorls.
They brought me back because my death was suspicious.
It's not done often as it's expensive and dead people are a nightmare to handle. I know just how much, since it was my job back at the station. Now I get to experience it first hand, my thoughts always drifting, looping back and forth. Professionally, it's fascinating. As I'm not trying to drill any clues out of myself, it's also less infuriating than expected.
I wish Damon, my partner in our two-people local unit of the Kismet corp, were here to talk to. However miserable my death might have made him, I'm sure curiosity would get the better of him.
As if the fairy godmother of dead people heard my wish, my pocket buzzes. My phone, also tucked in a plastic evidence bag, reveals a glowing image of Damon's face, distorted by three-quarters of a donut shoved whole in his mouth.

"Wello!" I cry through the plastic.

"Oh God, Layla?"

"Sup?"

"Sup?! You disappeared from the station with a bunch of evidence! Barton went crazy, had the place combed down to the morgue! I just left, never figured you'd actually answer. Damn, where are you?"

"Chief should have had my fingerprints taken off the system. I had to go, they were asking all the wrong questions, wouldn't even let us talk."

"You died suspiciously, I'm – was – your partner, of course they wouldn't let me see you!"

"I know, protocol, but they had no clue how to do the job. And you're the only other Kismet cop in the state! You've seen the note right? I didn't see my autopsy but it doesn't matter," I pat the back of my head and my neck as I speak, but there is nothing missing there – or anywhere. They did a good job on me, I can tell. The summoner was an Adept. The state of the body helps in fixing the remnants of the spirit, but no spirit can remember its passing so I still haven't figured out how I did myself in. Head wounds make memories worse, so much so that judges haven't signed a summoning for anyone who ate a gun in decades, making that unlikely. "I didn't kill myself for nothing."

All I can hear is laboured breathing. When Damon speaks again, it comes out like a moan.

"You're summoned... Layla, a shade..."

"I noticed. Actually it's fasci–"

"You're consumed by what you feel you left behind incomplete, you know this! What is it? What made you run away? What do you regret this bad? Is this about James?"

I cluck my tongue.

"You're not listening. I'm not running away. I'm moving forward. Capitalising on what a summoning can grant me."

"That being?"

"Drive, Damon. Single-minded drive." Car lights ripple on the window bays. Time to hang up. "Listen, how about I meet you at our old hangout on the corner of Samasarat avenue? In an hour? You can call the chief if you like."

"Wai–"

"I loved working with you Dam, don't be hard on your next partner."

I hang up and stash the phone away, my mind distracted by broken memories of the last six years, snagging on sharp-edged remorse, these minor regrets competing with the greater hurt that defines all that's left of me. I'm just the remnant of a dead Kismet cop, the strongest pieces of her will that survived her passing: the regrets that ate at her heart, the obsessions that drove her mind–the skeleton of a soul.
Keys rasp in the main door. I rise from my crouching position, patting my suicide note through the evidence bag, tutting at the blood stains – the ones outside of the bag, that spread thicker the more I try to brush them away. But blood is everywhere, on my hands, sleeves, up my throat and jaws, drying my work-issued shirt in stiff creases.
I walk to a corner, wipe my palms on the carpet and pick up my crowbar, hefting it. A voice calls in the dark hallways.

"Mike?"

No one answers. The door closes, keys are tossed in a bowl, switches are tried in vain. The man curses and makes his way towards the single lit and functioning bulb, walking straight into my trap like a little shrimp into the jaws of an anglerfish.

When old Supreme Justice Harkson steps into the room, the first thing he sees in the faint light is a pool of dark glossy matter against the fluffy cream carpeting, with a human shaped lump in the middle of it. You'd think he'd panic, but all he does is gasp, and flick the switch angrily, like the wires would uncut themselves. His eyes must have adjusted now, to recognise the lump as his son, the pool as gore and blood.

"Mike!" He cries, stumbling forward, falling to his knees in the black-red gunk.

Only months of built up obsession keep me from following my screaming instincts and pounce. Instead I step out, closing the only escape.

'Wello there, Justice Harkson!'

He whirls around, one knee down, presenting the other better than I could have asked for. I swing the crowbar, crushing right through tendon and bones.
Harkson shrieks, falling back down on the corpse of his son, hands blindly fumbling for his gun.

'A-ha! None of that.'

I bat at his hand, satisfied to see the weapon disappear under the couch, and pull out my own Glock, making sure Harkson can see it strained at him.
Not that it matters since the man passed out.
I can wait. After so long, this is just teasing.

'What did you live for' is the first question we ask the dead. They're always ready with an answer burning their lips. I lived for my family, for pleasure, money, glory, or because dying was harder than going on. They all have their reasons.
Then we can ask them: 'Who did you fear, love or hate?' And they tell us of the people who marked their lives. We let them rumble on, listening as their regrets gnaw their way out of their heart without artifice. The dead have no reason to lie, so they tell us everything. My job was to turn that flow of information into something useful for investigators.
Harkson stirs, waking in what I assume must be a cloud of serotonins and endorphins.

'What's a Kismet cop,” he whizzes, “doing in my house?”

His teary eyes sweep over my pale face, the white hair tumbling from my beanie, the bloodshot eyes and bruise-coloured lips.

“A dead Kismet cop.”

“Very observant. Took your son longer to get that far. Proof that when daddy's a bigwig any dumb psycho can turn to serial killing.”

"I don't know what you're talking about! Who are you?"

"Does James Fitzharding sound familiar?"

Harkson's eyes narrow, from pain or suspicion I can't tell, but he remains silent.

"My name is Layla Fitzharding. The big sister."

Silence still.

"I was Kismet, James was the smart-ass crime inspector. Worked on the Merryway murderer. Your son." I spit.

"You have no proof!"

"Oh, you made sure of that – for years – didn't you, Justice? No one signed the papers to summon my brother. He was packed off to family to be buried, his colleagues left to puzzle over the circumstances of his death." I laugh. "Too bad for your murderous duo, big sis is friends with half the Necromancy Guild. Had ourself a little private summoning."

My voice cracks. Dead people can't cry, so I don't.

"Whatever Inspector Fitzharding said during an illegal summoning won't stand in court!"

"I found out clues about the Merryway murderer during a random interrogation on a dead woman who had never testified. She wasn't supposed to be out, she said. Well, her husband killed her anyway!"

I smile a sad, twisted smirk.

"It was me who called my brother with that information. It's the regret that eats me inside out, that I spoke the words that sent him on your hell-spawn's trail. To his death."

The Justice stares balefully, maybe still taken with his illusions of legal justice and fearing recording devices.

"You know why you're not scarred? It's because you think us Kismet cops just chat with the dead. You don't know how often we have to restrain them."

Finally, that raises some alarm. Dots connecting, maybe.

"What–"

"These burning regrets and emotions, they're not only driven to talk about them, but to act on them. To have vengeance, redemption – peace... It feels so right. The summoned dead also can't gain new regrets."

We look at each other then, understanding full well we're two dead people chatting over a third.

"Your son was hors-d'oeuvre, but oh! You–" I laugh, and shoot.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2017, 12:09:22 AM by Nora »
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

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